Taking Personal Responsibility

Ajahn Sumedho

With mindfulness, we can be independent of the positions otherpeople are taking. We can stand on our own two feet and take responsibility for acting in a virtuous way, regardless of what the rest of society is doing. I can be kind, generous, and loving toward you, and that is a joy to me. But if I make my happiness dependent upon your being kind to me, then it will always be threatened, because if you aren't doing what I like-behaving the way I want you to-then I'm going to be unhappy. So then, my happiness is always under threat because the world might not behaveas I want it to.

It's clear that I would spend the rest of my life being terribly disappointed if I expected everything to change-if I expected everybody to become virtuous, wars to stop, money not to be wasted, governments to be compassionate, sharing, and giving-everything to be just exactly the way I want it! Actually, I don't expect to see very much of that in my lifetime, but there is no point in being miserable about it; happiness based on what I want is not all thatimportant.

Joy isn't dependent on getting things, or on the world going the way you want, or on people behaving the way they should, or on their giving you all the things you like and want. Joyfulness isn't dependent upon anything but your own willingness to be generous, kind, and loving. It's that mature experience of giving, sharing, and developing the science of goodness. Virtuousness is the joy we can experience in this human realm. So, although what society is doing or what everyone else is doing is beyond my control-I can't go around making everything how I want it-still, I can be kind, generous, and patient, and do good, and develop virtue. That I can do, and that's worth doing, and not something anyone can stop me from doing. However rotten or corrupted society is doesn't make any difference to our ability to be virtuous and to do good.

Excerpted from 'The Mind and the Way'

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